To All The Lawyers Who Donated Their Time And Hunkered Down In Airports: We Want To Say Thank You

by Meredith Ethington
David McNew / Getty Images

We live in an era where people say they are outraged on social media while actually doing nothing to help. Now is the time to stand up for what we believe in more than ever before. And the lawyers from all backgrounds who jumped to action and headed to airports all across the country to offer representation to victims of Trump’s travel ban have inspired us to get off our butts and do something more.

The lawyers weren’t just immigration attorneys either. In fact, many attorneys who work in all areas of law showed up to do something, anything, to help. And that has us feeling really freaking proud to have them on our side.

I imagine these lawyers are busy just like the rest of us, in fact, probably even busier. They stepped up and left their offices, and thriving practices and nonprofits to offer their services to those in need. And that is, frankly, inspiring as hell. Their actions have proven that doing something, even if it’s standing there with a sign just in case anyone needs your help, can have an impact. And we can’t say thank you enough.

I sat in horror when I first heard about the immigration ban and saw protestors flooding to airports. This is not America, I thought. I was embarrassed. Aren’t we all immigrants? Isn’t our mixed heritage an integral part of what makes America great?

While I had some friends who were able to rush to the airport protests, I, like most Americans, felt helpless and like someone needed to do something, but I didn’t have an immediate solution. The heroes came in the form of lawyers, and I felt so relieved.

I felt relieved because they were stepping up. Relieved because I knew that someone who was truly equipped to help, to make a difference, was stepping up and volunteering their professional services to make it happen. Relieved because I have seen firsthand how welcoming the downtrodden, hungry, and broken in spirit can make an immediate difference in the lives of those coming “home.” To me, that’s what America is about: open arms and welcoming the weary.

The lawyers who flooded airports to assist stranded and detained passengers prove that there is still a lot of good left in this country (and that all those lawyer jokes are not necessarily true). They have also shown us that offering up your professional services, for free, is sometimes just the right thing to do. We all have something to offer; it’s just a matter of finding a way to help with the skills we’ve got.

Carla Casas, an attorney for 15 years, who works exclusively in immigration and nationality law at her firm, Casas Immigration, in Chicago said, “The immigration ban has created a sense of panic in the immigrant community, as it sends a very clear message regarding this administration’s unfair and inhumane treatment of immigrants and what may be in store for the future. Clients are very concerned regarding traveling outside the country, for fear that something may change while they are gone (i.e., another executive order issued), and that they will be unable to return to the United States. This includes clients who are legal permanent residents (i.e., green card holders), and have a legal right to reside in this country.”

And many Americans, like myself, just want to be able to help, but we don’t have the resources to help in this manner. And thank goodness for the lawyers, who have stepped up to fix a mess of epic proportions that the ban caused, often without pay or compensation. That deserves a big thank-you, even though they aren’t asking for recognition or praise.

According to the New York Times, the International Refugee Assitance Project initiated the call to action for lawyers with an email after they realized that people would be stuck at airports across the country once the ban went into effect. And sure enough, they were right. On Wednesday, January 25, they sent out the email, and by the following Saturday, they had thousands of lawyers ready to assist travelers at airports around the country. And that call for help was desperately needed.

Casas explained: “This ban is affecting far more than just those individuals coming from the seven Muslim countries identified in the executive order. I’ve heard reports from Latin American immigrants who have also been questioned at length by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in some cases for several hours, prior to being admitted at airports around the country. CBP agents seem to be operating at increased stress levels in light of all the confusion, and that affects everyone who is caught in the process.”

There was a sense of fear from people from all countries and backgrounds that the ban could be expanded, or affect them even if they were not from one of the seven countries on Trump’s list. These lawyers who worked tirelessly in airports and behind their desks, have helped to restore some of our broken faith in humanity.

The immigrants who were detained and questioned simply because of their country of origin, many of them with legal Visas and green cards, needed to know that there was still someone on their side, that the American people would not turn their backs on them or allow them to be misrepresented simply because our new administration has labeled them as problematic based on their cultural heritage. We will not stand for this level of discrimination in our country, but we need help to make that happen.

The lawyers provided that help, that welcome relief, to the confused, scared travelers and immigrants who were unsure of what their rights were or what their next step should be. They were offering hope.

So, we want to say thank you to all of the lawyers who came from all different backgrounds to work for a common cause to represent America in a way that adheres to the tenets of our country. Thank you to the lawyers who are representing all of us who wish we could do something more. You make us proud.